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Hand, Suns a win away from title09/17/2010 11:00 PM ET
By Robert Emrich / Special to MLB.com
For a player who's been with Jacksonville only two weeks, Brad Hand is pitching like a Double-A veteran.
Hand allowed three hits and fanned four over seven innings Friday as the Suns blanked the Tennessee Smokies, 2-0, to pull within a win of its second straight Southern League championship.
The 2008 second-round pick made just one regular-season start for Jacksonville, tossing six shutout innings against the Smokies on Sept. 2. He allowed only two runners to reach second base and retired his final five batters.
"The first inning, I was just trying to get ahead with the fastball and go from there," Hand said. "I faced these guys last game of the year, so I kinda knew what to expect a little."
The 20-year-old Minnesota native spent most of the season in the Florida State League, going 8-8 with a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts for Class A Advanced Jupiter. In two Southern League playoff outings, Hand (2-0) has pitched 13 scoreless innings.
"I'm very comfortable [at Double-A]," he said. "I feel like I've gotten stronger as the season has gone on. I feel better now than I did at the middle of the year or even the beginning."
Garrett Parcell tossed a hitless eighth, issuing a leadoff walk to Brett Jackson before getting Tony Campana to hit into a double play. Sandy Rosario notched his second postseason save after fanning two in a perfect ninth.
The Suns defeated Tennessee in four games in last year's best-of-5 Finals and seeking their third title in six seasons.
Jeff Corsaletti provided all the offense, hitting a two-out, two-run homer in the fourth.
"That was a big home run for us," Hand said. "It settles me in a little and lets me know I can attack these guys and go right after them."
Trey McNutt (1-1) took the loss, despite allowing two runs on five hits with six strikeouts over six innings.
Game 4 is Saturday in Jacksonville, and Hand appreciates what could come with one more victory.
"It's pretty awesome for being up here for about two weeks," he said. "I have an opportunity to win a ring and be part of something special."